Sunday, March 12, 2000
'Other' hometowner longshot to make roster
BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer
SARASOTA, Fla. Being with the Reds doesn't overwhelm St. Xavier graduate Chris Sexton. But he may find himself outnumbered.
In many other years, Sexton would have a decent chance to make Cincinnati's Opening Day roster. A natural shortstop who also can play second base, third base and the outfield, Sexton progressed last year when he spent roughly half the season with the Colorado Rockies, his first major-league experience in seven professional seasons.
But the Reds are likely to keep just seven infielders. Six are certain: starters Sean Casey, Pokey Reese, Barry Larkin and Aaron Boone and reserves Hal Morris and Mark Lewis. Chris Stynes, a utility man like Sexton, has played well at second base while Reese's sprained right ring finger heals.
Because keeping a backup for Larkin isn't a major priority for the Reds, Sexton probably won't begin the season with them unless injuries arise or Stynes suffers an unexpected collapse.
All Sexton can do is continue to compete. The 28-year-old does that stoically.
That's just the way it is, he said. If it were easy to be
a big-league ballplayer, everyone would do it. There are a lot of good players in this clubhouse. This team won 96 games last year ... I just hope I'm the right fit so that people think you're a positive by having you on the club.
Sexton has made a favorable impression, playing errorlessly in the field and hitting .267 (4-for-15) entering Saturday night's exhibition game against the Texas Rangers at Ed Smith Stadium.
At the very least, if Sexton were to begin the season with Triple-A Louisville, the Reds know they could promote him with confidence.
He's a great kid, Reds hitting coach Denis Menke said. He does his business and never complains. That's what you like to see. He keeps himself ready, I know that. You never have to worry about that. He knows what type of hitter he is and what type of player he is. You know what you have with Chris, and that's good.
Sexton couldn't be blamed for allowing himself to feel a slight sense of awe. Like many Cincinnatians, he was steeped in Reds tradition at an early age.
Huge, he said when asked if he was a Reds fan as a youth. I grew up watching them on TV, listening to the radio ... For me, summers revolved around the Reds. That's the way it was.
But sharing a clubhouse with Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. doesn't faze Sexton. He can't allow that.
It's exciting to be here, Sexton said. I know what I'm trying to get accomplished. I've been in big-league clubhouses before. It's never routine being around these superstar players, but by the same token, you sort of get used to it. If you're walking around this clubhouse looking at who's in here, and all these great players who've accomplished so much, you lose focus on what you have to do.
Sexton must do many different things. Such is the lot of the utility man. Though he has played regularly in the minors, hitting .283, making two All-Star teams and being named the most valuable player of his team twice, Sexton quickly realized that he'd have to be handy to stick in the majors. He played second base, shortstop and all three outfield positions for Colorado last year, batting .237 with one homer and seven RBI in 35 games.
Sexton said Lenny Harris, a Rockies teammate who formerly played for the Reds, helped him make the transition from everyday player to spot player.
I picked his brain a little bit, Sexton said. He said he came to the park prepared to play each day. It may not be starting, but you have to keep yourself focused (in case) somewhere in that game, you get an opportunity, whether it be pinch-running, pinch-hitting or defense. A variety of things can happen.
Because a lot can happen between now and Opening Day, Sexton plugs forward.
I think there's a lot I have to show them, he said. I just want to show them that I can play.
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